Origins:

Western Suburbs Rugby Football Club (Suburbs) was formed in 1976 by a group of ruggers who broke off from Sud Americano Rugby Football Club. These ruggers desired to practice and play rugby closer to their homes in the western portion of Fairfax County.

The first players were Pat Cunningham (from NOVA), John Connally, Terry Ware, Larry Bertrum and Chris Callan. The players formed the club and registered with the Potomac Rugby Union in Fall, 1976.

As with most embryonic clubs, the first years were filled with crisis. Many practices and matches were held on rural farmland and it was not unusual to have 8 - 10 players attend practice, and not many more showed up for games. Although the team did vote to have red and blue as the team colors, there was never an agreement as to how those colors would be worn.

In 1978, the defunct Manassas RFC petitioned for and gained membership in Suburbs. More confusion followed concerning how the two clubs could function as one. 1978 was also the year that Suburbs won its first tournament trophy, for second place (see image link below).

Through many heated meetings, it was decided that Suburbs would be the senior club and Reston was selected for games and practices. Uniforms and colors were still a problem. Suburbs sported as many as three different jerseys on the 15-man side. However, it was the selection of Reston that would mark the beginning of the transition of Suburbs to a highly organized and successful rugby club.

Growth:

Residing in the Reston area was a core group of players from NOVA RFC located in Arlington. These players also were tired of the 60 mile commute to practice two days a week and to the matches on Saturdays. As stated above, Pat Cunningham was the first NOVA player to join Suburbs. He was soon followed by other NOVA players - Larry Winstead, Nick Scholl, John Kirchner, Chris Wells, Bob Curry and Gary Holt - who were all well known in the Potomac Rugby Union (PRU) for their exceptional rugby skills. Through this core, an active recruitment program began which soon attracted not only experienced rugby players, but also newcomers. One such newcomer was Larry Self (a neighbor to Pat Cunningham), who exhibited talents and skills developed as an outstanding high school and college athlete. Larry's participation prompted his brother Tommy to also leave NOVA and join Suburbs. In 1979, this group of nomads established an impressive 9 - 2 record under the direction of Nick Scholl and performed twice at RFK during the halftime of professional soccer matches.

Bill Anderson Era:

Success brought the club much attention and the notice of Bill Anderson. Anderson, a rugby stalwart in the Washington DC area for many years, resided in Fairfax County and was interested in joining the club as a coach. Anderson was elected coach and immediately set about doing things his way. Bill recognized that Suburbs new found success would only be temporary, because the seasoned veterans which made up the 1979 club would probably not be playing to many more years. Coach Anderson stressed the fundamentals of rugby and designed practice drills to acquaint novice players with the basic skills required in the game of rugby. Using the experienced players as models, Anderson soon developed raw talent into ambitious and capable rugby players. Since then, Suburbs has steadily grown and matured. The addition of rugby standouts such as Jack Ekas, Greg Gregory and Michael Walker from Old Red RFC, Doug Litton from the Washington RFC, and Rich Irwin from NOVA, contributed to the strength of Suburbs. All of these players had formerly been teammates of Anderson's and adhered to his philosophy of hard, clean rugby played for enjoyment. It was also in the Bill Anderson era that the club colors were switched from blue and red to black and white, mainly because Anderson got a good deal on some black and white jerseys!

The Virginia Tech Connection:

An important source of new talent in the early 80's came in the form of collegiate ruggers. In 1981, Dave Brennan came to Suburbs; diverting the pipeline of VA Tech RFC graduates that NOVA RFC had long enjoyed. Jeff Gravatt soon followed suit in 1982. Later that year, Suburbs scheduled a pre-season scrimmage against a VA Tech side consisting mostly of local Washington area residents still on summer vacation. In a clean, hard fought match, Suburbs prevailed on a last second try. Following the match, all the Tech ruggers were invited to attend the infamous "Divorce Party" scheduled for later that night. The events of the Divorce Party are best left undescribed, but the combination of good rugby and raucous partying encouraged more Tech graduates to join Suburbs. Quickly, future Suburbs stalwarts including Chuck Drago, Brian George, Chris Wilson, Rob Daubenspeck, Greg Short, Gil Carroll and John Pendleton arrived to fill out the ranks and join other Tech alumni including Art Steffen and Pat Herrity. This core of young talent quickly meshed with Suburbs' experienced players to form the nucleus for future success.

Division I:

By 1985, Western Suburbs had grown to three full sides and all the hard work had paid off. Under the coaching of Bill Anderson and Jim Wilke, and the conditioning of Rich Irwin, Suburbs went undefeated in Division II of the PRU. On November 16, 1985, Western Suburbs beat Washington Irish RFC and earned the right to play for the first division.

In 1986, Western Suburbs went on to win the Eastern Rugby Union's Division II Championship held in Doylestown, PA.

However, after several rocky years in Division I, Suburbs elected to return to Division II in 1990.

Division II:

Under the stalwart coaching of Jim Borell, Suburbs placed first in Division II of the PRU in 1990. In addition, a touring side travelled to Tucson, AZ, and placed first in the 16th Annual Michelob-Continental Rugby Classic. Suburbs was also very successful in their showing in the 1990 Irish Tournament in Washington, DC.

The club returned to the PRU Division II Championship in 1991 and 1992, but failed each year to advance to the Rugby East Championship, due primarily to turnover in the coaching ranks. During the years from 1991 to 1994, Suburbs had six different coaches, including Brian George, Mike Yost, Pat Herrity, Dan Carr, Art Steffen and Mike Sohdi. The result of all these changes was inconsistency on the field. In 1994, under the leadership of President Pat Herrity, the club advertised in the U.K. for a coach, the result of which brought Suburbs the talents of coach Neil Osbourne.

Later in 1994 Mark Guanya became the president of the club, and in 1995 Bill Judge was elected to that position and remained president until 1997. In 1996 Western Suburbs hosted the Men's High School National Championship Tournament, which saw Highland High School of Provo, Utah, emerge as victors. Also in that year, in conjunction with the tournament, Rob "Sandman" Sanders set up the first Suburbs web site on a personal account. The site was moved to a more recognizable domain name, "rugbyfootball.com", in February, 1998 by Pete "ThreePete" Robertory.

Ian Nixon was elected in 1997, and vacated the position before the spring of 1998, when Kevin Corry took over.

Nels Erickson became the president of Suburbs in 1999, and in November 2000 stepped down. Pete "RePete" Murray was elected the president of the club in its 25th year - but moved to Richmond to pursue work interests in February. Paul "Lumberjack" Jenkins then became the president. Dave Lyster and Jeff Harpold have been mainstays of the coaching staff for about three years. Another milestone for the club occurred with incorporation as a non-profit Virginia corporation in February, 2000, and the granting of IRS 501(c)(3) status in July, 2000. In fall season of 2000 the club obtained the services of Pete "Rover" Murphy, who coached the a-side to a 4-1 season (matrix matches - it was 6-1 if you count the two non-matrix games).

Western Suburbs' 25th year, in 2001, was a mixed bag of goods. The spring season was awful. The fall season, however, was certainly one for the books. In fall the a-side went undefeated (10-0-1), and won the MARFU Territorial Division South championship, and beat three upper division clubs in friendlies during the season just to prove it was no fluke. Also, the club entered the b-side, called "the Fairfax Reds" (Pete Murray's name, derived by an old set of red practice jerseys) into Division III competiton and made the playoffs. 2001 was also a year for extreme scores. The a-side lost 0-85 in a 5/5 match against Lancaster RFC, the highest-ever recorded points differential loss, and on 10/6 the Reds won 97-0 against the Washington Renegades, the highest-ever recorded points win. The club ran four sides during the fall, to account for some dramatic growth over prior seasons.

In Spring 2002, Suburbs had a new head coach: Scott "Schnauzer" Delaney. The club's a-side played Norfolk Blues on their home pitch in an April playoff match, but lost. The next weekend the Reds traveled north to State College, PA to play in their Division III playoffs, but failed to win to become the champions. Fall season for the Blacks (the a-side) was 0-8. History teaches us that when Western Suburbs loses, we do it dramatically.

In Spring 2003 both the "Blacks" (a-side) and the "Fairfax Reds" (b-side) acquitted themselves well. The Reds traveled down to Newport News to take part in the MARFU Division III playoffs and won two of their three matches; this, however, put them only in fifth place. The Fall season was interrupted by Hurricane Isabel; like spring season, wet weather and field cancellations were common. We won some, we lost some - we had a good time!

2004 was... difficult. Upheavals in staff and practice facilities led to erratic performance on the field (an old story). Late Summer saw the departure of stalwart player/coach/administrator Pete "Rover" Murphy to the wilds of a former Soviet republic; in a pinch, longtime assistant coach David "Coddy" Codd took up the reins as the new head coach and Ryan "Yorkie" Findley became the new club president. In spite of their best efforts, however, Fall 2004 was a losing season - perhaps our worst. (We created a lamentable new record with a 0-110 loss to perennial powerhouse Raleigh RFC.) The unavailabity of the usual lit practice facility, the disappearance of many impact players from previous seasons and other factors had their effect. At times, it seemed to longtime members that the club was struggling to remain viable. Yet... the appearance of many promising new players and the ability of the club's administrators to quickly adapt to changing circumstances was reassuring.

Division III:

The poor results of the Spring 2005 season caused the officers, coaches and members of the club to reevaluate the club's goals and abilities. At times, with weather-related fields closures and difficulties with getting and using a practice pitch, it seemed that the odds were stacked against us! A general meeting was held on 5/2/05, and the membership voted overwhelmingly to drop down to Division III, accepting that we haven't been playing Division II level rugby. The plan is to rebuild the club and one day work ourselves back into Division II.

The club took definite steps in that direction in the Fall 2005 season, with an overall record of six wins (with two consecutive shut-outs) and three losses, our best season in some time. Ryan "Yorkie" Findley continued to serve as club president and David "Coddy" Codd remained on as Head Coach. We would have been in the playoffs but for a bizarre judgment from the PRU, who voted and decided that a club that forfeits a match is still eligible for the playoffs. (Despite the fact that a rule exists that bars a forfeiting club from the playoffs.) The result of this selective enforcement of the laws was that another club filled what we think was our position in the playoff seeding. The contortion of logic on the part of the PRU that produced this result is unknown. After all, one would suppose that the PRU exists to encourage players to play rugby, not to reward them for avoiding playing it. But, such is rugby in the USA. Major rugby nations may take heart that there's no danger of us becoming a world power in the sport as long as such thinking exists.

In 2006 WSRFC was led by longtime member Steve Lough, who served as club president. Steve also occasionally offered up his spacious yard as a playing field when our usual pitch at Signal Hill Park in Manassas became flooded. The "residential rugby" that was played there was certainly unusual for visiting clubs, not to mention Steve's neighbors. The Spring season was the usual sort of thing for us, a mix of victory and defeat. The a-side and tournament attendees went 6-7-1. The highlight was hosting the visiting "New York Japan" side. In the Summer season, sevens players attended no less than seven tournaments at various locations. The real news of 2006, however, was the fall matrix match season. Despite losing the services of our head coach David Codd, Jim Borell stepped in and led us to an undefeated, 7-0 season, making us the PRU Men's Division III Champions. The title was certainly sweet, given the playoff hassles we had with the PRU in the previous year. It was also a great way to celebrate Suburbs' 30th season, and helped ensure that we'd be a viable club for the next thirty years.

Spring 2007 saw Steve Lough continuing as club president and Jim Borell as head coach. Our desire for higher-level competitive Division III play was halted at the 4/14 playoff match with Olde Gaelic RFC. Taking second place at the Porter Cup two weeks later was some compensation. Fall 2007 saw another season of Division III competitive play, and Suburbs once again made it into the April playoffs. The A-side was 6-3. In the annual meeting, Steve Lough stepped down as club president (Jeff Bush replaced him) and Jim Borell stepped down as head coach.

In February, 2008, Kris Swart became the new head coach. Western Suburbs, as tradition dictated, made the pilgrimage down to Savannah for the celebrated St. Patrick's Tournament. The results were easily described: Won one, lost two, drank way too much beer. Overall, Spring 2008 was characterized by... losing. The club lost four of its matches, including one to longtime foe West Potomac. In May, members traveled to New York City to play the New York City Japanese, a road trip that was in response for hosting them on our pitch in 2006. It was certainly a highlight of the season. At the end of August, Kris Swart was reelected as head coach, and a disciplined, no-nonsense approach reigned during practice. The result? A stunning fall matrix season - the club played eight matches and won all of them, winning the 2008 PRU Division Three title in a playoff game against Warrenton RFC. This is the third consecutive season that Suburbs made the playoffs, and the second season winning the title. WSRFC is set to play Blacksburg PRC (a VRU club) on 18 April 2009 in the MARFU quarterfinal.

In the Spring 2009 season the club, again led by head coach Kris Swart, tied a competitive Blackwater side, and went 3-0 to take 1st place in the Savannah tournament's Social Division. Sadly, the club lost its Division III Quarterfinal playoff match against Blacksburg RFC; Blacksburg wound up winning the championship. However, desiring a more competitive match structure, Western Suburbs elected to step up to Division II for the Fall 2009 season. There was an unusual lack of interest in the traditional Alumni Match, however, and so it wasn't played, the first spring season in many years this was the case.

Division II:

As stated above, for Fall 2009 the club decided to return to Division II competition, and were placed in the MARFU Division II South league playing against familiar clubs like Rocky Gorge, Severn River, etc. Sadly, however, the season resulted in scores that were all too reminiscent of past Division II seasons and WSRFC concluded play 0 and 6. So we'll call it a "rebuilding season." Hopefully 2010 will show solid gains in play and experience.

The Western Suburbs Old Boys

The Western Suburbs Old Boys (SOB's) were started in the fall of 1992 by Art Steffen, Larry Winstead and Steve McNair. The formation of the SOB's was a direct result of another local old boys team's (the Poltroons) refusal to allow them to play. This did not sit well with Art, Larry and Steve who vowed to have revenge. Hence, the Poltroons are the SOB's archrival.

The SOB's play 4 to 5 games a season (fall and spring) usually on Sunday afternoons, against local and visiting Old Boy teams primarily on the social level (during the game this social aspect disappears, everyone is business on the field). The SOB's are composed of players aged 35 and over with some players over 30 who do not play regularly. The spirit of Old Boys Rugby is not to win at all costs, but rather to have fun while playing your favorite game and maintaining old friendships and making new friends. This is not to say that Old Boys Rugby is not competitive; the SOB's have won most of their matches and are considered one of if not the most competitive side in the DC-VA-MD area.

The SOB's have their own international touring side called the WARTS (Washington Area Rugby Touring Side). The WARTS are for the most part a combination of the SOB's and our good friends from the West Potomac Old Boys. The WARTS have participated in two Golden Oldies Rugby Festivals held in Dublin, Ireland, and Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1999, in conjunction with the Rugby World Cup, the WARTS enjoyed a trip to Ireland and Wales, and attended the Golden Oldies Festival in Toulouse, France in 2001.


The question came up one day, "Where did the Western Suburbs intertwined WS logo come from?"

From Art Steffen: "Here is the real scoop on the logo. Back when the club was formed, there was no logo. We had a patch in 1980 which had the lettering "Western Suburbs Rugby Football Club" in blue on a white jersey with black cuffs and collars. In 1980, a Suburbs player went to Australia on business, his name was Rick Pendergrass. He brought back ties, pins and hats from the Western Suburbs league team in Australia. Tom Wickersham, Tom Thornton, Bill Anderson, Larry Winstead, Dave Mooney and myself were beneficiaries of these mementoes, I know Tommy and I still have them. He brought the pins back and Bill Anderson had Susan Murray (Brennan), who worked as a graphic artist, pull them up and print them out. We then had white jerseys embroidered with the emblem with "Western Suburbs RFC" under it at Matt Godek's. So there is your story. Tom Thornton was president, Tom Wickersham was Secretary, Dave was match secretary and I was treasurer and governor. Bill was the coach. I think it was fall of 1980 we got the new jerseys, thanks to Bill Anderson. I bought a set and so did others. We originally wore red jerseys with four royal blue stripes, royal blue socks with red turn-downs, and royal blue shorts. In the Bill Anderson era we were black all the way, then we used white jerseys because of the heat."


Click here for a list of past Annual Superlative Awards
Scores for matches from 2000-present may be found by clicking here.
Click here for match results from the 1990's
Click here for match results from the 1980's
Click here for match results from the 1970's


Old WSRFC Photos
(The Way We Were)

Savannah 1996
Western Suburbs; Summer, 1978
Western Suburbs; Fall, 1978
Photo collection - Western Suburbs vs. Hagerstown RFC, May 1979
Eastern Rugby Union's Division II Champions, 1986
ERU Champs, 1986 - another shot
1986 ERU Champs slides
ERU Champs, 1986 - Coaches Gregory and Anderson
WSRFC-Sponsored Ruggerfest (8/29/87)
Another shot of the WSRFC-Sponsored Ruggerfest (8/29/87)
An image from a 1987 Matt Godek catalog
Michelob Championship
The 16th Annual Michelob Classic (Arizona, 3/4 November 1990)
Watch for Animals! (Taken at the 16th Michelob Championship)